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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a look at one of the most acclaimed documentaries this year, "searching for sugar man." it is about a little known singer and songwriter named rodriguez. he had a career resurgence years later when in south africa. thanks to the new film the music of rodriguez is being enjoyed by a new generation with the movie's soundtrack lending number one on the billboard charts. and we are glad you joined us for a conversation a "searching for sugar man." king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day
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by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: malik bendielloul, a documentary filmmaker behind one of the most talked-about documentaries, "searching for sugar man." it tells the remarkable story about rodriguez's remarkable
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comeback in south africa. the film is of for an oscar this year. here are some scenes. >> if ever there is an air of mystery around a pop artist, it is around the artist known as rodriguez. >> he was a wandering spirit around the city. ♪ >> it is a mystery, but it spread quickly. to many of us south africa as he was the soundtrack of our lives. it was the first who opposition to apartheid. he was a mystery. then we found out he committed
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suicide, and a lot of people have different versions of the story. i thought it would make a good story. there is nothing on the record to tell us who he was or where he was from, so we started to look at the lyrics. we found him. >> he was doing the work nobody else wanted to do he was a lot of things but not materialistic. >> the next day he says, i have got to go on tour, and we said, why is absent -- why is that? >> congratulations in advance. when i saw this story i was blown away. i know some of the real-life characters.
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i have known them for years. some of the personalities you feature in this documentary, but what i came to know of the story, my first reaction was how a story in this rich could be hidden for so long. it is one of those stories that is right in front of our eyes, but it takes a guy from sweden to bring all of this together, so when you discovered this, how amazed were you that this story had not been told? >> it was very strange. i saw argo yesterday. i had not heard that story before. there are some fantastic stories that give you inspiration to find new ones. there are quite a lot out there.
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this was one of the best i have heard in my life. it had a fairy tale quality that seldom happens. tavis: for those who have not read the story, i love the peace on you and your work on this project, but how did a guy from sweden get turned on to this story? >> i quit my job. i bought myself really cheap around the world tickets. i went to different countries looking for a story, and i stumbled across the story. >> with your ex girlfriend? is that why she is an ex, because you made your travel around the world is now who
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american television. you do not have to answer that. >> one of the characters was looking at a secondhand record shop in cape town, and he said, as did this really happen? this is the most incredible thing ever, and it took four years to make the movie. tavis: what were you doing in terms of your career, and what made you quit and buy tickets around the world to travel? one could call in gold, or one could call it is are depending on perspective, but what was your last work of the time, and what made you quit your job? >> i was working at a swedish show. it became a spectacular story. the trouble is the most fun part of this, so why not do it for a limited amount of time. trouble is wonderful.
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normally that is what you use your money for. it is like work almost. i found six stories i tried to sell to swedish tv, and this was one of them. tavis: are the other five nearly as good as this? >> they are pretty good, but not as good. tavis: what is it about the elements of this. you find six stories. this was the best. what were the elements that were screaming to you this one was the best? >> it is quite a lot. there is a cinderella partner, but we have a man living in a ramshackle house in detroit his whole life. he supports himself as a construction worker by day laborer, and he gets a phone call, and there are people he
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has never heard of in south africa but tell him you are more famous than the rolling stones, and he says, you have got the wrong guy. i am the construction worker. he said, did you make this album? that album in which is more famous than abbey road. he said, and i did not sell 50 copies. they tell him, you have to come here. he is working in blue-collar working here, and they say, you will not be disappointed. he said, i am not going to go there. they said, please come to south africa to see for yourself. he is in his late 50s. he is a construction worker. they open the door, and it is a red carpet, paparazzi, and he is walking around.
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he thinks it is for some president reagan and he looks out of the window while they are on the highway. rodriguez, is everywhere. it is covered in his face. it is like the truman show. this is like the story, but is true. there is a lot more to the story. tavis: what the make of the fact s he puts in the state' out a couple of albums, and they go nowhere, but in south africa he sells half a million albums? they love him in south africa. of all the places in the world, why did his music had told there? the times are pretty tumultuous here as well.
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people always say the good old days. these were not the best times for people of color in this country. how could it not catch on here, but it took off like nobody's business in south africa? >> it was obeyed. -- it was big. it is so strange this happens. it is so hard to explain. one thing is he was not hurt at all in america, because anyone who hears it immediately understand. he is very accessible, but if no one hears it, it never starts. tavis: why did it not get hurt? why did rodriguez not get hurt in the -- heard in the states? >> if you would have sold 1000 copies it would have started.
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they told him rodriguez does not work. you need to change your name. robert zimmerman changed his name to bob dylan. he said, i am not going to change because you want me to. they said, you have to change because that is the way the industry works. the first single was released under the name rod riguez. he said, no. this is ridiculous. i.m. rodriguez. i am not going to adapt myself to some stupid industry. that was one reason why. tavis: in south africa what were the conditions that allowed this record to take off? >> one reason was this was the apartheid era. it was grim.
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you were not allowed to do anything. if you saying stuff that was anti-establishment, you were banned. rodriguez was not banned. he took the library copy and scratched the record so you could not play it, but the album would sell. if you are saying stuff like that, it could not be heard. he was saying stuff like the system is going to fall. people have never heard stuff like that. that is why he became important because he was saying something important. tavis: what did you learn about the genesis of that kind of rich and lyrical content?
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what made this take off in south africa was the lyrical content of what he was saying. his lyrics were speaking to hopes, dreams, aspirations, so that is what makes it take office. what is the genesis of that kind of lyrical content coming out of this guy? >> he was extremely socially conscious. he tried to run for mayor. he did run for mayor. he went out to the streets and try to get people to vote. he did get 7000 votes, which is pretty crazy. he still talks about how he is a political player more than anything. the message was more important for him than the melodies.
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to me it is the other way around. he is the most beautiful song writer. for him it was all about the message of those lyrics. >> you run for mayor. he would not have had a chance to back in the day. i understand why he does not win a race in detroit at the time, but how did he live in detroit? this is remarkable because he is living in plain sight. he is living in a ramshackle house in detroit. he isn't a labor. he is an icon on the other side of the world, so how does he live in such plain sight? there is no way you could be that big in south africa and live in open site and nobody in detroit would know who you are
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because the internet with out you. there was no internet back then, but tell me how you could be so famous there and so i known on the streets of detroit. -- so unknown on the streets. >> there was no communication. the south africans did not look for him. they would not have been able to bring him to south africa. it was forbidden to go to south africa. the queen went there, and it was an outrage. it was isolated, and rodriguez was also isolated. he did not have a telephone. those three things, no internet and isolated made this happen.
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tavis: we discover a number of neighbors who thought he was a strange guy walking around with his guitar all the time. they did not know anything about who he was. the guy lives in the same place for years. nobody had any idea of the acclaim this guy had around the world. how did he never gave all those years of living in that kind of artistic of security? -- obscurity? >> the dream never stopped. his family said he was always playing the guitar. he was playing in the bathroom because that is the place with the best acoustics. >> he was playing in the bathroom.
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>> he would walk with a guitar on his back. everyone knew of him. tavis: he is in motor city, but he is walking. >> he was always walking everywhere, and everyone was like who is this guy? he was not homeless, but he was this mysterious black-dressed guy. he never played his guitar because no one ever asked him to play the guitar, because no one knew he was a singer. tavis: how did you find him, and how did he receive you? >> he was a notorious for playing with his back to the audience theory good -- to the
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audience. tavis: so did miles davis. >> the industry said, who is this guy amazo? tavis: what was his reasoning? >> i asked him, and he said, it is for a hearing. when we started a film, when i got to detroit, his family said, you can come here. you can meet us. you can read his daughters. you can meet him, but you're not going to be able to film him, because he does not do that. i said, that is a problem. him he was veryto friendly. we like to meet in places with a lot of noise where we knew we could not film because it was noisy. every time the camera came into the room he was very wary.
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he did not like the camera. the first time there was no interview. i filled him while he walked in the street. the second time he came to sweden, and he said to me in stockholm, and the third time we met was in the winter of detroit, and that is the first time i try to make an interview, and it was very hard. after two minutes i said, that is it. -- he said, that is it. i said, i did not ask any questions. we did another short interview. after four years we had something that kind of work, but it was really special. >> this interview is 30 minutes
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long. >> he was struggling. he wanted to help me. it was a very frightening situation to have a camera in your face. tavis: when i got a chance to see your work and the piece about your work, i was stunned by how humble he is, and i asked myself, if i could have gone 30 or 40 years knowing my talent, walking around with a guitar on my back all this time and nobody ever appreciating what i was offering in this country while i am being celebrated around the world, but i did not detect any bitterness in him. did he fool me? >> he is a different kind of
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guy. i have never met anyone like him. he is the most aspiring person. it is true he does not have any bitterness. has a zen like quality. i think he came to places most people never come in a mental state most people never come company because it is not only to have a nice house in beverly hills. he knew he was a lucky man. he had three wonderful daughters he loved and to love him, and you became powerful people. they used libraries and museums and art exhibition halls as their kindergartens. they became really knowledgeable as byron people with the very rich inner life , and it is prove you do not
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need material stuff to become something big. >> how is the managing all this exposure and success and awards and recognition and academy award nominations and concerts? he is going back to south africa. he is sought around the country on tour. how is he handling this? tavis: the money he gets he gives to his family, because he never started to consume. he was living in this house all his life. i think he is going to stay in this house forever. it is the $100 house they bought in detroit in 1970. people take it is crazy, but i do not think it is crazy. if you never start to consume, if you never need stuff, you are free. everybody says, i need to buy my
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freedom. freedom is free. you do not need money to be free. if you do not need stuff, you are always free. it is an alternative way of living. it is not the richest guy who wins. it is somebody else who wins. >> let me ask you to set your modesty aside. how good you feel about the fact of three your persistence and dedication and sacrifice you have been able to bring this story -- it is not just a story about a musician. it is a story about consumerism, freedom, what matters most in life. it is a story about how not to be bitter, a story about not giving up on your dreams. there is so much wrapped up in
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this documentary. how you feel about being able to bring this to live. >> it would have happened anyway because the music is that good. >> it did not happen in 40 years. >> people rediscover it. the one thing i do take credit for is that it happens right now. he can do this, and 10 years later maybe he would not be able to. tavis: and timing is important. >> it is important all over the world. in south africa he is playing for 50,000 people next week. tavis: he did not quite do that. he does not live in stockholm for no reason. the movie is called "searching for sugar man."
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the most talked-about documentary this season. the sound track went to number one. it is an amazing sound track, and before we get to academy award night, you might want to check this out so you will not be in the dark about what this project is about when the academy awards are upon us. congratulations, and whether you win the academy award or not, you have done a wonderful piece of work, and i am honored to have met you. glad to have you on. that is our show for tonight. as always, keep the faith. today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with the award winning writer on her latest book about haiti. that is next time. and we will see you then.
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>> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is right thing. by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can >> and by contributions to your you. thank you. you. thank you.
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Tavis Smiley
PBS February 2, 2013 12:00am-12:30am PST

News/Business. Malik Bendjelloul. (2013) Filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY South Africa 14, Rodriguez 8, Sweden 3, Tavis Smiley 2, Stockholm 2, Reagan 1, Malik Bendielloul 1, Robert Zimmerman 1, Smiley 1, Pbs 1, I.m. Rodriguez 1, Bob Dylan 1, Davis 1, Us South Africa 1, Haiti 1, Los Angeles 1, Detroit 1, Motor City 1, Amazo 1, Byron 1
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on 2/2/2013